Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Latasha Watkins, MBA'14: The Wonder Woman

Latasha Watkins
Chicago, IL
BS'98, Chemical Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
MBA’14, Consumer Marketing Academy, Kelley School of Business

Latasha Watkins had a healthy career at General Mills that spanned supply chain and operations. She’d been there 14 years, but she knew there would be a point when she wanted more. Soul searching turned into studying for the GMAT, and she found what she was looking for at the Kelley School of Business.

The catch: Her family of four. It took some adjusting. For two years, Latasha lived in Bloomington with her one-year-old son, while her husband lived and worked in Chicago, keeping their three-year-old son grounded there in his life and at school. Here's how she made it work.

Describe your pre-MBA career.

I had been working at General Mills for over 14 years in different roles that spanned supply chain and operations, and I was progressing very well in my career. There was a point, though, when I could see where the path was leading and I wasn’t completely satisfied with how it would inevitably play out. I wanted more. Soul-searching turned into studying for the GMAT, and soon I was moving full force ahead.

What’s it like to bring your family to Kelley?

My family is more important than anything, and my husband and I made this experience work for us all. I live here in Bloomington with my one-year-old, Jonathan, while my husband spends most of his time in Chicago with our three-year-old, Jayden. he works in Chicago and keeps our son grounded there in his life and at school. An unforeseen win happened through this process: Jayden has established an incredible bond with my husband. They may have not had that opportunity had it not been for my two years away at Kelley.

How has Kelley prepared you for the next step?

Kelley helped me redefine what I thought success was. Before Kelley, my work was about providing for my family and doing what I knew I could do well. After Kelley, I became very comfortable with saying, “work is what makes me feel fulfilled"; it’s the freedom to pursue what makes me happy and brings me joy. I know through Kelley I’ve become a stronger woman, wife, and mother. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What to expect in a consulting internship

By Ellen Gartner Phillips, MBA'15

Going through recruiting on campus last year with Deloitte Consulting, I was as proactive as possible about asking Kelley alumni what to expect in a consulting internship.

I was told throughout the process that I would be working on one project for the duration of the summer, and that I should expect to be filling the role of a Senior Consultant on my team.  Occasionally there were those random instances where someone ended up on multiple projects, but that was HIGHLY unlikely.

So, of course, that outlier ended up being my summer. And it was awesome. I had the fortune of experiencing three different projects with the same client, and had the opportunity to dive into multiple parts of a huge company. 

I got to see how Deloitte builds and manages relationships with its clients, as well as learn how to work with multiple managers on very different teams. I filled numerous roles and by week four of my summer I was presenting with our team to senior leadership in the client organization. 

People talked about the Core at Kelley being like drinking from a fire hose, and this experience truly opened the floodgates. 

I went in wanting to try on the ‘consulting lifestyle’, which everyone associates with travel.  I came away understanding that the consulting lifestyle does include a lot of travel, but that it is also about long hours with your team in a (more often than not) different room every day, being comfortable with ambiguity, and learning how to really unplug on the weekends. 

I learned how necessary it is to build a solid network you can trust, and started to understand how to best manage relationships within an organization.

I was continually impressed at the high bar that was set and that the teams I worked with had the client’s best interest in mind at all times. 

My fears that a ‘non-traditional’ background in music performance would hinder me were put to rest as I realized that I had been taught a way of thinking both through my training in music analysis as well as data synthesis.

So, how was my summer? Crazy. And amazing. 

I look at what I learned in 10 weeks: valuable perspective from the others in my intern class, that I could push myself further than I thought, and that I was well-equipped with the first year at Kelley under my belt. I am more excited to be back at Kelley as a second-year than I expected to be.  It’s invigorating to see the confidence that my classmates have come back with after their respective internships. It’s good to be home.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pedro Albarrán, MBA'02: The Strategist

Pedro Albarrán

Mexico City, Mexico
Managing Director, Hyundai Motor Mexico
MBA ’02, Kelley School of Business

How did you find your first post-MBA opportunity?

I came to Kelley from Arthur Andersen, where I did business consulting for the automotive industry. During that time, Toyota contacted us to do research on starting an operation in Mexico. It seemed like a great opportunity for me, but when I met Toyota’s recruiters at Kelley, they were looking for US students only. I kept pushing—I looked for people at Toyota connected to the Mexico project, and I sent personal letters telling them I had some experience in the field, could work in the United States, but ultimately wanted to return to Mexico. And after 13 great years at Toyota, I had the opportunity to grow in the industry and recently took on the managing director role at Hyundai’s headquarters in Mexico—and the momentum I’ve found in my career is all because of Kelley.

How did Kelley prepare you for the challenges you face in the automotive industry?

The MBA program also has a strong interest in global business. Toyota is a Japanese company with a California subsidiary that was launching a Mexico operation. These are three very different cultures. It’s a similar situation with Hyundai, a Korean company with offices around the world. Through my Academy, I learned cultural competency strategies that helped me integrate the best of each. I also got a wide-ranging education. I wasn’t a marketing major, but the faculty in that area are great, and I took a lot of those courses. This helped me as Toyota was setting up the first stages of our marketing efforts and gave me the tools I needed to get operations off the ground in Mexico for Hyundai. My strategy courses were also very relevant when it came to launching a company in a new country. I keep those textbooks on my desk to this day—they keep me connected to the lessons and people who were so instrumental in my success.

What advice do you have for future MBAs?

First, look at schools to see how much flexibility they allow in their coursework. Kelley really enables you to customize. Second, try to take as many courses as possible with the best professors, no matter what discipline. Even if it’s a subject that doesn’t interest you, you’ll always learn a lot from a good professor, and Kelley has great faculty. Third, look for global experiences. The world is getting more integrated, and that needs to be a priority. Kelley has worked hard to give students those opportunities.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Immersed in the Business of Beauty: My Internship at L'Oreal

By Susana Zazueta, MBA'15

Working in The Big Apple has always been a dream of mine. As a teenager, I dreamt about living in the city as a business woman and riding the subway to work. This summer I was able to turn this dream into a reality as an intern at L’Oreal. As the first ever Kelley intern at L’Oreal, I knew it was going to be a challenging summer, but I was ready to give it my all.

I was thrilled to be placed on the Garnier Fructis haircare brand, as it allowed me the opportunity to merge the Consumer Packaged Goods world that I want to work in with elements of the fashion industry that I am passionate about.

My pre-MBA experience in fashion and brand management, coupled with what I learned from Kelley’s consumer marketing academy, enabled me to contribute from my very first day. I was evaluating photo shoots for future product ads, commenting on promotional displays, generating creative briefs to enhance current PDQ’s, and creating weekly sales performance summaries.

The second week of my internship when my name appeared in my manager’s Out of Office email reply, I knew I was seen as much more than an intern. Fortunately, Kelley’s rigorous program had prepared me to excel in challenging situations. One of our Kelley Values is excellence—embracing challenges and continually self-improving. I felt empowered by the training I had received at Kelley, to not only embrace the challenge but also push myself to exceed my own expectations.

I was given two projects to complete during my internship. From evaluating the opportunity in a new product category to building a launch strategy for an existing product, I had a lot to learn in a very short amount of time. Working within L’Oreal’s lean team structure made it a very challenging workplace, but as a result I met some fantastic people who were willing to share their insights and offer guidance that I found invaluable.

I had an incredible summer and learned a lot about what I am looking for. My internship taught me that I really do have a passion for brand management in consumer products, and that it doesn’t matter whether I am selling toys to a four year old or hairspray to a 22 year old. It’s just a matter of knowing how to use the tools you are given to connect consumers to your brand.

Ellen Gartner Phillips, MBA'15: The Practitioner

Ellen Gartner Phillips, MBA’15, is a natural performer. She’s used her passion for music as a vehicle to teach, consult, and manage as a small business owner, but even with two degrees 
she wanted to further her education. She began shopping for arts administration programs and landed on an MBA. Here's why she chose Kelley, and what she's gotten out of her experience to date.

Ellen Gartner Phillips
Chicago, IL
BM'05, Music Performance, Northwestern University
MM'07, MuSic PerforMAnce, Rice University
MBA’15, Consulting Academy, Dean's Fellow, Kelley School of Business

What brought you to Kelley?

The idea and love of Indiana University was planted in me early—my grandfather was a football coach at IU in the 1960s. It’s safe to say I was a hoosier before birth. I’m a professional musician and have used my passion for music as a vehicle to teach, consult, and manage as a small business owner. I wanted to further my education, so I started shopping for arts administration programs online, yet kept being directed to MBA pages. I decided to visit a number of schools and Kelley was the only one that felt like home. everything comes full circle.

How do you feel the Kelley culture and curriculum are setting you up for success?

I was sure I wanted to pursue brand management through the MBA program. From all my experience in talent and contract management, I thought that would be a logical field to pursue. It became clear that the Kelley experience is less what’s logical and more what we uncover about ourselves through the program. The faculty and the community have a way of revealing greatness in each person. I found confidence and energy in exploring new things—now I'm in the Consulting Academy, working for Deloitte this summer. I would have never imagined this would be the path I’d take.

What’s the most valuable insight you’ve learned so far?

Kelley has helped me shift my mindset about what I really want—and that is almost preparation enough for the next step in my career. I’m constantly learning and evolving, and I know more than I give myself credit for. I have great insight to offer, and I’m adding value in a very tangible way.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Jacqui Cuffe, MBA'14: The Inspired Doer

Jacqui Cuffe
San Francisco, CA
BA’04, Business Economics, University of California Santa Barbara
MBA’14, Entrepreneurial Innovation Academy, Kelley School of Business

Describe your pre-MBA career.
I’d been calling the West Coast home, living in San Francisco and working most recently for Oracle in tech and software sales. I had convinced myself that a career switch was what I wanted and was looking to explore a new segment of business—an MBA seemed like the logical next step. During a networking roundtable at orientation, however, I realized that I loved tech and sales and decided to learn more in the area i already knew so much about.

Why did you choose Kelley?
It is true when they say the Kelley alumni network is robust and worldwide, and I experienced that firsthand in my decision-making process for the right MBA program. I found myself at a networking event for women in San Francisco that brought strong career women together around…food! We were in a cooking class and next thing I knew I was surrounded by a handful of Kelley alums. They were completely honest with me and I could sense their passion for the program, and in that moment, I made my choice.

What is the most valuable insight you learned at Kelley?
I came to understand and accept at Kelley that we all truly have something to offer and often what one person has is what another person lacks. That’s very hard for us high-achievers to admit. On a recent project, I was having difficulty arriving at a solution and I reached out for help from a peer who I knew was great at the subject. It was a moment of humility for me. The very next week that same person came up to me in desperate need of leadership coaching for an upcoming case competition, and I was there to reciprocate.